Is IQ relevant?
High ability in children is typically evaluated by cognitive performance. That may be convenient for schools and college entrance gatekeepers, but is IQ relevant for adults as a measure of potential contribution – or life satisfaction?
Certainly there are job performance and achievement measures such as Academy Awards, Nobel Prizes and MacArthur fellowships, but most high ability adults will not produce work that will be acknowledged in those ways.
Some people do not gain significant recognition for being exceptional during their lifetime, such as poet Emily Dickinson [1830-1886].
One of her quotes:
“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?”
[Her sensibilities and experiences sound to me like psychologist K. Dabrowski’s concept of Overexcitabilities – see posts on Intensity – and perhaps the personality trait of high sensitivity: see the Highly Sensitive and Creative site.]
Marylou Kelly Streznewski [author of Gifted Grownups] notes “Her story is well known: the seven poems published in a minor magazine as a favor by a friend; the fifteen-hundred brilliant compositions tied in ribboned packets, filling the drawers in her house at her death. No eminence there.
“Surely Dickinson was, in her nature, a gifted person unrecognized in her lifetime. Now that Dickinson and Whitman are acknowledged to be the two major innovators in the creation of American poetry, her eminence is undeniable.”
In our article The Inner Process of Giftedness, by Mary Rocamora and myself, we note that “Many gifted adults were never identified as such, and many more were impaired by both psychological and circumstantial factors, including gender, race, and cultural background. These issues affect self-actualization at many levels.”
Is achievement important?
“Many in gifted education now view giftedness even in childhood as definable by achievement rather than potential…” Tolan goes on to note that a focus on “talent” rather than “giftedness” – “though it recognizes an internal reality (a talent that one individual has while another does not) – in actuality expands the achievement/product orientation.”
Sunfell comments, “This emphasis leaves a lot of brilliant, insightful, intelligent people out in the cold. Sure, I can write- it’s an itch I have to scratch. It is possible that I could get money and fame from writing.
“But I have other abilities that I value more highly- intangible gifts that cannot be monetized or made into a ‘product’ and sold. I process things radically differently than the average person.”
Blocked by self-criticism
Counselor Mary Rocamora comments in her article Counseling Issues with Recognized and Unrecognized Gifted Adults about being blocked from realizing a creative product: “Clients who are passionately engaged with their talent but are constantly separated from the creative experience by relentless self-criticism, self-doubt, and feelings of inferiority often suffer from another type of block. It is often accompanied by depression and the periodic shutting down of their spontaneous creative impulses.”
She quotes a client who is a “veteran actress, dancer-choreographer, singer-songwriter, and artist” about the process: “the older I got and the more proficient I became in the professional creative world of entertaining, the more my own parental eye became a judgmental eye.
“Less focus was directed toward the joy and experimentation of the creative process and more focus was placed on the outcome, the product… By focusing on the ‘goal’ I was missing out on the journey. Without that journey there was no joy.”
A need to create – as Sunfell says of writing as “an itch I have to scratch” – can be energizing and joyful, but also remain hidden and unrecognized – or when recognized, compulsive or addictive.
Creativity coach and therapist Eric Maisel, PhD talks about the virtues of that quality in his article In Praise of Positive Obsessions.
Perfectionism, sophisticated self-criticism and other qualities that may be associated with high ability can also hamper creative expression.
In her article Why I Don’t Write, Cat Robson mentions some of those topics, as well as more “mundane” issues like fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome. Robson does in fact write, and has garnered two major awards from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.
Multitalented creative people also have the challenge of choosing what channels to explore and use to produce something, if they want to.
Painter and art instructor Kimberly Brooks, in her Huffington Post article First Person Artist, writes, “For many years, I earned a living as a writer or designer and kept my artwork to myself and a few close friends. When I was doing this, I felt as though I was walking around with my hand covering one eye, seeing in two dimensions and half-blind.”
She adds, “I used to view individual creativity like a milkshake and that it just depended upon which straw you stuck in there to suck it out. So, whether you wrote, painted, or played the saxophone, it would all come out expressing ‘you.’ But it’s not that simple. Everyone possesses the artistic instinct and lives on a spectrum in his ability to express it.”
The Barbara Sher image above is from my article:
Interested In So Many Things: Creative and Multitalented.